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Japan v New Zealand: Richie McCaw issues warning to much-changed All Blacks
New Zealand will hope to get their end-of-year tour off to a resounding start when they take on Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.
But All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has warned that Japan could produce a surprise if the less than full strength visitors are not on their guard.
Back in June, Asian champions Japan beat a second-string Wales 23-8 after suffering a narrow 22-18 loss in an earlier match. The victory was Japan's first-ever win over a major rugby nation in nearly 80 years of international competition.
"It's pretty key we have a performance that's as good as, if not better than, where we've been," said McCaw ahead of New Zealand's first-ever Test against the Brave Blossoms on Japanese soil.
"We can't afford, just because we've got a few changes, to let our standards drop."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made 14 changes to his starting line-up from the 41-33 Bledisloe Cup victory over Australia two weeks ago, with lock Dominic Bird and wing Frank Halai making their debuts.
"It's a different challenge playing the Japanese. But I'm sure the pace of the game will be up, but we've got to be careful that we don't get frantic with it," said McCaw.
"I'm sure that they have gained a lot of confidence out of the two Tests they played against Wales.
"And all of a sudden, you start believing in what you can do.
"There is no doubt they've got some ability to play. They frustrated the Welsh. They put them under pressure. They had quickness in their game."
Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Toshiaki Hirose, 13 Male Sau, 12 Craig Wing, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Hitoshi Ono, 4 Shoji Ito, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Aoki, 17 Yusuke Nagae, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Luke Thompson, 20 Takashi Kikutani, 21 Kosei Ono, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Yoshikazu Fujita.
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Richie McCaw (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Ryan Crotty.
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